Monday, August 18, 2008

The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit

At the Canadian Carey Family Conference last evening, Bill Bygroves, the guest preacher for the week and pastor of Bridge Chapel in Liverpool, UK, said something that caught my attention. He reminded us that the holy Trinity is not the Father, the Son and the Holy Scriptures, but rather, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In his address he did not take time to elaborate but his statement got me thinking that he is on to something important. While I am certain he would not deny the critical role of the Spirit in the creation of the scriptures, I think his point is that we are ultimately dealing with a divine person and not merely a sacred book. As important as the scriptures are in the life of a Christian they are not functioning as they should if the do not lead us to cry out for more of the Holy Spirit, the heavenly comforter, and divine advocate who indwells the people of God as a deposit guaranteeing the inheritance which is to come at the end of the age.

I found his statement arresting because I have been pondering disturbing deadness of too many congregations who pride themselves in their orthodoxy and their love of the scriptures. I fear that too often we have turned preaching into a spectator sport and sometimes in my perversity I wonder if it has not become a form of penitence that is ritualistically endured week after week as a way of cleansing the conscience. Awash in conferences, seminars and meetings that merely speak to the choir and take up time and money that could be better spent on the front lines, we are not evangelizing the world as we should, nor are we addressing people in a way that they can understand. This is not simply an educational problem because never have there been more books and courses and sermons available to those who are so inclined etc. Nor can it be fixed if pastors are encouraged to sound 'street-wise' and 'with-it' in their sermons, which usually comes across with all the impact of a pathetic joke. Something more is needed. More accurately, someone more is needed!

Surely the answer lies in the ministry of the Holy Spirit. We need him to breathe life into our efforts. Studied homiletic or elocutionary technique will not cut it in the real world and similar suggested solutions to the present malaise betray a basic failure to understand the hardness of the human heart. We need the Spirit of the living God to fall afresh on us and our ministries. Without his presence and power we will become mired in traditionalism or confuse conservative or liberal values for those of the gospel. What is frequently absent is the unstudied eloquence of those who have experienced the wonder of sovereign grace and therefore cannot help but speak in 2008 terms of the reality of God's presence and grace. Bygroves is right. Christians worship the triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


Trish said...

Thank you for being a provacator and presenting this challenge. I agree that an intellectual theology without a practical theology is spiritually lifeless and without the sweetness of delighting in the Lord. Lately I've been thinking that our Christian culture just like the world is so adept at living life vicariously through the stories embedded in video games, movies, gossip mags, even bible narrative. But frequently this is just a means of evasion. We'd rather vegetate before the T.V. techno-tranquilizer or even "enjoy" a good sermon than face our fears, doubts and responsibilities coram Deo.

Lord, glorify Yourself and enjoy your glory through our love and learning.

MaximumFocus said...

Yes thank you. This too has been a pressing thought.

Permit me to illustrate with a lengthy quote by John Bunyan from "The Holy War":

"Shaddai's Lord Chief Secretary"

'He that is from the court,' said he (Emmanuel), 'is a person of no less quality and dignity than is my Father and I; and he is the Lord Chief Secretary of my Father's House, for he is, and always has been, the chief dictator of all my Father's laws, a person altogether well skilled in all mysteries and knowledge of mysteries, as is my Father as myself is. Indeed, he is one with us in nature, and also as to loving of, and being faithful to, and in the eternal concers of the town of Mansoul.

'And this is he,' said the Prince, 'that must be your chief teacher; for it is he, and he only, that can teach you clearly in all high and supernatural things. He and he only it is, that knows the ways and methods of my Father at court, nor can any like him show how the heart of my Father is at all times, in all things, upon all occasions, towards Mansoul...This teacher, therefore, must of necessity have the pre-eminence, both in your affections and judgment, before your other teacher. His personal dignity, the excellency of his teaching, also the great dexterity that he hath to help you to make and draw up petitions to my Father for your help, and to his pleasing, must lay obligations upon you to love him, fear and to take heed that you grieve him not.

MaximumFocus said...


This person can put life and vigour into all he says; yea, and can also put it into your heart. This person can make seers of you, and can make you tell what shall be hereafter. By this person you must frame all your petitions to my Father and me; and without his advise and counsel first obtained, let nothing enter into the town or castle of Mansoul, for that may disgust and grieve this noble person.

'Take heed, I say, that you do not grieve this minister, for if you do he may fight against you; and should he once be moved by you to set himself against you in battle array, that will distress you more than if twelve legions should from my Father's court be sent to make war upon you.

'But, as I said, if you shall hearken unto him, and shall love him; if you shall devote yourselves to his teaching, and shall seek to have converse and maintain communion with him, you shall find him ten times better than is the whole world to any, yea, he will shed abroad the love of my Father in your hearts, and Mansoul will be the wisest and most blessed of all people.'

Ben said...

I think that this is creating a false dichotomy between the Scriptures and the Spirit.

The greek word "spirit" is literally "breath." Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. The scriptures are the inspired word, inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit convicts and hardens and breaks hearts for reception or denial of the word.

I think we are in an era of needing more doctine, not less.

Kirk Wellum said...

Ben... I'm not trying to drive a wedge between the Holy Spirit and the scriptures. The latter are the very word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit and are to be believed and obeyed by Christians as part of their commitment to Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word. I'm simply saying that you cannot reduce the Holy Spirit to the scriptures as though they were one in the same.

And with regard to doctrine, I agree that it plays a vital role in our lives as Christians. What I am suggesting is that today more than mere doctrine. We need doctrine that is set on fire by the Spirit of the living God. It is all too possible to be orthodox and lost. What we need is the truth of the scriptures brought home to our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit.

james owolabi said...

Amen! Thank God! Well said!!!! said...

I thought the same thing when I heard it and wondered why he didn't elaborate. It was a provocative statement. I think you explained it well to Ben.